STUDIO TOURS: Top Cow Studios

Since its inception in 1992, Marc Silvestri's Top Cow Productions has made quite a name for itself in the comics industry. As one of Image Comics' partner studios, the company has produced such enduring concepts and characters as Cyberforce, the Darkness and Witchblade (who just saw her 100 th issue published) and has also helped to launch the careers of popular creators like Michael Turner, David Finch, Joe Benitez and Christina Z. But what all fans consider synonymous with the Top Cow brand is the ultra modern, high quality artwork created at Top Cow Studios, where CBR was lucky enough to take an exclusive tour.

Our tour of Top Cow Studios was guided virtually by Top Cow's Vice President of Marketing & Sales himself, Filip Sablik! Assisting Filip was Top Cow editor Rob Levin, who provided photographs for this latest installment of CBR's ongoing STUDIO TOURS series. Take it away, Filip!

Welcome to the Top Cow Studios in sunny Los Angeles, California. We've got a proud tradition of maintaining a fully working studio at our home office for the entirety of our publishing history. Our founder, Marc Silvestri, believes that artists can grow much faster and become stronger by learning from other artists around them and with a strong mentor in place to train them. Looking at some of the names of today's top artists who've "graduated" from Top Cow, we like to think he might be onto something there. Currently we have a number of artists who work in house at the studio and we're very excited to give CBR and its readers an inside look.

We'll start with one of our newest additions to the studio, Michael Broussard. Michael's an up and coming artist we found through Top Cow's latest Talent Search.

  1. A giant 7-11 Mug. Our artists tend to work late hours, partially because they're night owls and partially because there are fewer distractions (i.e. no editors bugging them) at night. So, they need lots of caffeine. Seriously, that mug is the size of your head!
  2. The drafting board. A staple for all of our artists. You'll find a few constants on all the drawing boards around the studio. One is bull clips, those big black clips that our guys use to tack up reference and pages in progress to their boards. The second is a mirror, which they use to quickly reference an expression or pose while drawing. And cause they're vain… And lastly multiple light sources at the desk. Having more than one light source helps reduce glare off the page. A lot of our guys have fans as well to keep cool and dust off the boards.
  3. A Nerf football. The artists get 30 minutes in the yard every day for exercise then it's back chained to the drawing board!
  4. The book shelves next to the desk hold reference materials, copies of previous Top Cow materials, and in Michael's case a stereo with headphones so he can crank his favorite tunes while working on pages.

  5. "Halo 2." Some stereotypes about comic artists are true. We can't lie. Occasionally the entire office has practically shut down for a "Halo 2" tournament. No one who's played "Halo" would judge us.

To Michael's right on the other side of the bookshelves is Rick Basaldua, inker on "City of Heroes" and "Darkness Level 5," among other projects.

  1. Rick's drafting table. In the upper right corner you'll see a pad used to clean ink nibs and brushes to ensure a smooth line on the page itself. Some of the guys, like Rick, like to listen to movies while working so there's a DVD player for just that purpose. Director commentaries on movies you've seen repeatedly are a great background noise. Although that doesn't explain the "Friends" tapes…
  2. Baja Fresh refill cup. Cause an artist's gotta eat and needs his caffeine. Underneath it is another reference shelf.
  3. Rick's stereo and headphones. Our guys use headphones a lot so they don't disturb their studio mates. Of course, if there's no one else in the studio at the time, you can bet Rick is crankin' up the theme song to "Friends" on the speakers. Next to the stereo Rick has pieces tacked up for inspiration by some guy named Silvestri.
  4. Another TV for when the artist's need to take a break or something cool like the newest episode of "Witchblade Anime" arrives from Japan.

In the opposite corner from Rick, you'll find Rick's brother and penciling madman Eric Basaldua! Eric's best known for his work on "The Magdalena," but has most recently done some issues of "Hunter-Killer" and is currently hard at work on an issue of "The Darkness" before moving on to a top-secret project.

  1. The pull file. In addition to being a great place for the guys to post photos from company events, signings, and conventions this filing cabinet contains tons of reference images and books. Eric keeps an additional smaller filing cabinet with additional reference next to his drawing table. On top of it are smaller portfolios which house photocopies of his work, convention sketches, and works in progress.
  2. Eric's drafting table. You'll see the staples of the mirror, desk lamp, and bull clips. Plus some cool work in progress and Eric's reference both for inspiration and references for certain poses he's likely to draw. Eric's specialty is drawing gorgeous ladies so it's not uncommon to find the most beautiful women hanging out at his desk… at least in photos.
  3. Eric's drawer unit which includes drawing supplies, extra tools, and snacks. It also makes a handy table top for a stereo and Eric's beverage of choice – water.
  4. Reference shelves which include comics, trades, books, and magazines.
  5. Some framed pages from Eric's "Magdalena" series. Eric's talent with drawing beautiful women and conveying emotion really shine in this series!

Behind Eric's drawing table and to the left of Michael is where the Head of the Herd, Marc Silvestri works. Marc likes to be in the studio with the other artists so he is always accessible and part of the studio environment. If one of the guys has a question they can turn around and just ask him.

  1. Marc's reference shelves.
  2. Marc's business desk
  3. Marc's couch. Every once in a while Marc likes to take a break and look through our latest comic or trade paperback or the paper. As you can tell from the pile of stuff on the couch, it's been a while since he had time to kill.
  4. Marc's drawing table and station.
  5. The studio fish tank. Fish are pretty cool and give you someone to talk to if you're the only one in the studio at 3 in the morning.

Behind Marc's drafting table, you'll find Marc's business desk. This is where the CEO, the Big Cheese, and the Tall Guy makes all of his executive decisions that guide Top Cow's overall vision and brand.

  1. Hidden behind a stack of papers is a picture of Marc and his lovely wife, Bridget. Next to that is Webster's Dictionary, because you never want to send a letter or email as the CEO of a company and have something like a spelling error in it. An invaluable tool!
  2. Marc's latest reading material, which consists of the newspaper, the latest issue of Previews, and "Savage Dragon" by Image publisher and co-founder Erik Larsen.
  3. The "In Box." On any given day you might find new samples of artwork, production pages for review, works in progress, invoices, printer quotes, and sample comics here. Marc swears he has a system. We believe him cause he's the boss.
  4. Witchblade statues and toys. One of the biggest thrills as a creator is to see one of your creations interpreted in another medium by other creative people. Sometimes it's a beautiful statue by Clay S. Moore and sometimes it's a TV show. The thrill never gets old. And believe it or not, Marc and President Matt Hawkins personally review any licensed product to make sure it's up to the Cow standard!
  5. Marc's Mac where he conducts a lot of the routine business that's required of him as CEO. And answers emails. Lots and lots of emails! Next to the computer is another unique piece, a statue by Kotobukiya of Masane from the Witchblade Anime.

To Michael Broussard's left is the main man's drawing board, where Marc Silvestri creates breath-taking artwork and the main reason so many artists love working inside the studio.

  1. A second Mac for Marc to check email quickly or IM without getting completely distracted from his work. This allows Marc to work on art while keeping an eye on any important developments on the business front.
  2. Top-secret prep sketches for Marc's latest project. Shhhh!
  3. Marc's drafting table has many of the constants found throughout the studio. Two mirrors for quick gestures, a fan to keep cool in the California summertime, and various triangles for working out perspective and backgrounds.
  4. Marc's stereo system.
  5. Marc's drawing tools including a separate drawer set where he can store less frequently use tools of the trade and extra supplies.

On top of Marc's reference shelves is a collection of statues of characters that have either inspired him or mean a lot to him personally. Among them is a Frazetta inspired piece, Ballistic from "Cyberforce," Sara Pezzini from "Witchblade," Wolverine from the "X-Men," and Jackie Estacado from "The Darkness."

Marc's reference shelves are definitely the most extensive in the office. Among them you might spy reference guides for computers, business, as well as books of art by artists that continue to inspire Marc like Boris Vallejo, Gil Elvgren, Masamune Shirow, Milo Manara, and Norman Rockwell. Plus a rare couple of boxes from the original Image Universe card set!

That's it! Thanks for stopping by and taking a look around. And like they say on MTV's Cribs, "Now get out!"

Thanks Filip, Rob, and everyone else at Top Cow!

Next week - David Lloyd!

And be sure to check out any of our previous STUDIO TOURS you may have missed:

Ghost Rider RObbie Reyes
Ghost Rider Just Ditched His Hellcharger For a Bigger and Better Ride

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